Essay On Quantum Physics

In addition to a short preface by the editors and Ney's introductory essay, the anthology contains ten newly commissioned essays by David Albert, Valia Allori, Steven French, Sheldon Goldstein and Nino Zanghi, Peter Lewis, Tim Maudlin, Bradley Monton, Alyssa Ney, Jill North, and David Wallace.The idea behind the commission was to address the question of "what kinds of things wave functions are." While each of the essays address this issue in one way or another, the philosophical scope of the collection is significantly broader than the charge to the authors might suggest.There are, however, good reasons to deny that we are in possession of anything like a canonical quantum metaphysics.

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It might, like Bohmian mechanics, tell us that whatsoever.

And the upshot is that we are not left with much to work with in devising a supervenience relation that provides a compelling account of our ordinary experience of classical-seeming objects.

A metaphysics-from-theory Bohmian might take the wave function to describe an entity that lives in a high-dimensional configuration space, while a primitive-ontology Bohmian might insist that, properly understood, the wave function is not a real physical entity and that configuration space is just abstract mathematical convenience. But if so, this suggests that there is in fact no shared sense of what should count as a satisfactory explanation of ordinary experience and, hence, that there is no canonical metaphysics that answers to what people think ought to count as a satisfactory explanation Primitive ontologists seek to paper over the apparent metaphysical differences between alternative formulations of quantum mechanics and the counterintuitive metaphysical commitments suggested by the reliance on representational artifacts like a high-dimensional configuration space.

They do this by insisting that all satisfactory formulations of quantum mechanics are in fact ultimately about our experience.

More specifically, the essays concern the role of metaphysical commitments in providing a satisfactory account of experience in the context of the currently most promising formulations of quantum mechanics, formulations that seek to address the quantum measurement problem.

In order to get an idea of what is involved here, one might think of a resolution of the quantum measurement problem as involving two steps.

This requires that, regardless of what they may seem to be about, all formulations of quantum mechanics -- indeed all fundamental physical theories whatsoever -- are in fact about a primitive ontology consisting of entities with ordinary histories in ordinary 3-dimensional space.

We may ultimately want to account for the experiential intuitions of the primitive ontologist by showing how our best physical theories might, at some level of description, allow us to talk of ordinary objects with ordinary spatial relations.

Second, and closely related, there is a sense in which quantum mechanics describes the state of the physical world not in terms of objects and events in the 3-dimensional space of ordinary experience, but in terms of objects and events in a high-dimensional configuration space.

As an example, a Bohmian might, as the physicist John Bell once suggested, think of Bohmian mechanics as describing a wave function that lives in 3 the particles.


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